Travel Channel's 'Hotel Impossible' spruces up University Inn at Emory

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Anthony Melchiorri came to Atlanta in late March for his 50th fix-it project with Travel Channel's hit show "Hotel Impossible."

As part of season four, the blunt hotel consultant visited The University Inn at Emory, the first local hotel he's revamped.

In an interview before the renovations were final, he said the University Inn is in a prime location across the street from Emory University and the Emory University hospital. But he wasn't willing to say much more since he didn't want to spoil the episode, which airs May 26 at 10 p.m.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

The promo reveals more info:

Anthony Melchiorri is in Atlanta, GA, where a big client has blacklisted the family-run University Inn at Emory. Melchiorri works his hardest to rescue this hotel from an outdated funk – and a critter invasion.

Melchiorri's job is to help independent hotel owners not affiliated with the Holiday Inns and Sheratons of the world compete. He said 80 percent of hotels are now branded, up significantly over 20 years. The recession, he noted, put an extra hurt on indie hotels.

"We're filling a need," Melchiorri said. "These hotels are savable."

His blunt style, he said, probably wouldn't play well in a Marriott boardroom. He likes to work directly with small business owners who can make quick decisions. "I can take direction from an owner. An owner can fire me. He can hold me responsible for my actions," he said.  He likes owners who care about hospitality, not those who got into the business purely as a real estate investment.

He has nothing against chains. In fact, when he's traveling in many cities, he opts for chains when he has no time to do research on independents. And he prefers three-star limited service hotels over luxury hotels because they are more likely to give him free Wi Fi and a complimentary bottle of water. "I don't stay in four-star hotels. Too much trouble," he said.

Melchiorri will choose indies for leisure travel.

The biggest change over two decades in the hospitality business? The Internet has made information transparent. "Everyone knows if a hotel is good or bad," he said. "It's great for guests. And it's good for owners who engage them. If they believe everyone is lying and believe they're out to get them, they're in trouble. I'd say 90 percent of  reviews online are truthful."

Today, "it's easier to run your business but more difficult to get people to stay with you."

Melchiorri has only a few days to help the owners fix their problems.

The University Inn has been around since 1971 as a family business. The last big renovations happened a decade ago.

Tom Thibadeau, the owner of the hotel, said partway through production of the show that "it's been better than we expected."

Before Melchiorri arrived, Thibadeau watched all previous episodes of "Hotel Impossible" and liked the host. After spending time with him, "I like him even more now. He's really smart and understands what he's doing. We really needed a set of outside, unbiased eyes. You do your own thing for so long, you turn a blind eye to a lot of things."

Thibadeau said he's had issues with the nearby hospital, a primary source of referrals. They've wanted to get renovations done but had trouble getting funding from banks. They only recently received an SBA loan to fix up all the rooms. "Hotel Impossible" footed the bill for two room renovations and partly funded a new canopy. He hopes to use the ideas Melchiorri gave him to spruce up the rest of the hotel.

UPDATE: Here's a video teaser

TV preview

"Hotel Impossible," Monday, May 26, 10 p.m., Travel Channel